If you've been a Disney fan since the mid-1990s, odds are that you probably fell in love with A Goofy Movie. The 1995 film, which served as a spinoff of the popular animated series Goof Troop, brought the adventures of Goofy (Bill Farmer) and his son, Max (Jason Marsden), to the big screen. The film follows a cross-country relationship between the father-and-son duo, which is complicated by Max's goal to appear onstage in a televised concert in order to impress his crush, Roxanne (Kellie Martin).
A Goofy Movie became a bonafide cult classic since it hit home video in 1995, and its popularity has only grown in the years since. (Just ask the millennials who still know all of the words to Powerline's "Stand Out".) That love for the film has been on display a lot over the past month, as it celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary on April 7th. Farmer also reprised his role as Goofy on the recent Season 3 premiere of DuckTales, in a scene that simultaneously confirmed that Max and Roxanne are also canon in that show's universe.
In celebration of A Goofy Movie's twenty-fifth anniversary, we got to chat with Farmer about the film's enduring legacy, and how it helped influence his decades-long portrayal as Goofy. In the process, we spoke about a potential Goof Troop reunion, as well as his upcoming Disney+ documentary series, It's a Dog Life With Bill Farmer.
A Goofy Movie
ComicBook.com: I actually rewatched A Goofy Movie, last night and I forgot just how absolutely perfect it is. So I'm very excited to get to talk to you.
Bill Farmer: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, it's been kind of fun reliving that and revisiting it after all these years.
What has it been like to revisit that, and see the movie have this sort of legacy all of these years later?
Yeah! Gosh, when it first came out, it wasn't a big tentpole picture, it was kind of this little picture. And it did well. But over the years, especially in the last four or five years, fans have been coming up to me at comic-cons and conventions and things and saying, "That movie meant so much... I couldn't talk to my dad, but we'd watch that movie together and it kind of became our bonding picture."
And now, 25 years later, the parents have seen it when it came out, and now their kids are seeing it. It's kind of become even more of a bonding kind of a movie. Of any of the things that I've done - and I've probably done 4,000 shows for Disney over the years - that single one event and project probably has had more comments to me than any other thing.
Generations of Fans
You kind of just mentioned it, but what is it like to have multiple generations of fans who are so familiar with your portrayal of Goofy?
I feel like I'm one of the luckiest guys, that I got that particular role. When I came to California in 1986 and the audition came up, I thought, "Oh cool. Goofy was my favorite character when I was growing up and watching TV with my dad." And I thought it'd be so cool to voice him. When I got the job, they don't say, "You're it from now on," it was just for that one job. So for several years, I kind of was, "Okay, this could kind of go away really quickly, as quick as it came."
But by the time the movie came out, I felt really ensconced in the character. I knew the character so well, that it kind of became a part of me. It's kind of like I get to hang around with someone that's really famous, because I can turn it on and off. If I go into a restaurant or in a mall or someplace like that, people don't know who I am. But all I've got to do is, "Gosh, howdy," and people instantly recognize that voice, and then I become an instant celebrity. It's really weird.
I will say, even you slipping into the voice just now just made me unbelievably happy.
Years With Goofy
How has your kind of take on Goofy - and your relationship with him - evolved since you initially started playing him?
When I first got the role, I was doing an impression of Goofy. Because Goofy's been around since 1932, and so for the first couple of years, I was just trying to mimic the voice and get the personality down as best as I could. After a couple of years, two or three years, you kind of start putting things of yourself in the character, and you kind of start getting the character and the personality of the character. And that helps the acting out a great deal, because just mimicking a voice is one thing, but becoming the character and knowing how the character thinks in different situations is a little different thing.
That was what was so difficult about A Goofy Movie was that we added layers of emotions that Goofy had never had before. He had to be a nurturing father, and he was worried about Max going to jail and stuff, and listening to the stuff that Pete said. We never really had to do that before. So trying to bring that to the character, while keeping it still in the Goofy universe, and it doesn't become where, "Oh, that's not Goofy anymore," that was the trick.
And the way I did it, my son was born in '89, so he was about five when the movie came out. When we were recording, when I was talking to Max as Goofy, in my mind, I was talking to my son as me. That emotional connection I had with my son really helped my acting as a father. Even though it's Goofy now and Max, it helped me get into the role a lot more.
The musical numbers in A Goofy Movie are so iconic and so entertaining. Was that an interesting shift, to now have to sing as Goofy in that context?
I had done a lot of sing-along cassette tapes and albums before I had done A Goofy Movie, but I knew that these would be big songs and they were original songs. Most of the songs I'd done before were just standards and things like that. But here were a couple of really great original songs, and they were also the first thing I recorded on the movie.
Day number one was a song. So I hadn't really even familiarized myself with the script that much, but just from the lyrics of the song, I kind of got a good hint as to what the relationship was going to be. And that helped me a lot when we actually got around to recording the movie. But luckily, you don't expect Goofy to be a great singer, so that took a little pressure off of it.
Is there a sequence in A Goofy Movie that is your favorite, either from when you initially recorded it, or just in the time since the movie has come out?
One of my favorites is the Lester's Possum Park scene. I grew up in a little town in South Central Kansas, and yeah, that kind of world outlook and small-town thinking, that kind of is it. I've been to places like that almost in Kansas, and also working with Pat Buttram -- I think A Goofy Movie was his last movie. And he was, of course, Mr. Haney on Green Acres and had that kind of voice that sounded like that. And getting a chance to meet him, because he was one of my favorite character actors, also made that scene extra sweet.
And it had a lot of heart, because Max is really mad that he has to go to this stupid park, and Goofy's really into it. And I think every kid has felt like that with their dad or mom going to something that they like, and the kid doesn't like, and, "Oh my parents are stupid." And so I could definitely relate to that, and I think my son could too.
Evolution of Animation
What has it been like to see the animation industry evolve, especially since this movie came out?
Good and bad. Usually, me and Jason Marsden, who played Max, and sometimes Jim Cummings, who played Pete, in our scenes together, we recorded them ensemble. And earlier, my television series, Goof Troop, was totally ensemble. All the actors were in the studio at the same time.
But since then, and now almost exclusively, it's a solo kind of thing. I go into the studio, I record my lines, and Mickey or Max or Donald or whoever come in and do their lines at a separate time. It is rougher on the actor, because you have to imagine the way they're saying the line to you, and then you responding. It's easier and more fun to work with your colleagues, rather than come in and just do the lines by yourself. That's probably the biggest change that I've seen since the old tape recorder days, the 24 track tape recorder days, is that I miss the ensemble recording. That's really special when you get to do it. It's technically harder to do for the engineers, but I do miss that. That's probably the biggest change.
I wanted to ask about your DuckTales cameo, because you're just so great in it. How did that kind of come about, and what was it like to play Goofy in this sort of new, but familiar context?
Well, it was kind of a nice little flashback to the Goof Troop and the Goofy Movie days. Occasionally, Goofy has done some cameos in other shows back in the early days. I think Quack Pack, and maybe DuckTales, and from time to time I would do a cameo. But this is a really neat return to that. To tell you the truth, I have not seen the scene since it's been animated. So I've got to look it up and see it, if I can get a clip of it.
It was, of course, great fun to record, especially with a different director and all the DuckTales group. They're great people, and every job you do is a little bit different, because you get to know certain directors and others. And it was fun to get into a new situation with an old character.
Goof Troop Reunion
Is DuckTales something that you would potentially want to cameo on again? Fans were unbelievably happy that Max is referenced in your scene. And it feels like if Max were to come back, Goofy would have to be there along with him.
Oh, I would love that. I love it when they kind of cross-reference other characters within their own universe. And yes, I'd love to do it again. And who knows, maybe they'll go back to Spoonerville and Goof Troop? Who knows? I'd sure love that.
It's a Dog's Life
I wanted to ask about your Disney+ show, because as someone who is a dog person, I find the concept of it really adorable.
It's called It's a Dog's Life with Bill Farmer. I'm an executive producer, along with my wife Jennifer and Steve Duvall and Gary Benz and Phil Kruener of GRB and Dog Tale Productions. And it came about because Steve, who was a cameraman for like 30 seasons on the show The Amazing Race, was putting together a show that he wanted to do in a local market up in Reno. He asked me to host it and I said, "Oh sure, I'll come up." And we did that, and it was at an equestrian center where they had these hounds and they'd kind of go on the old English fox hunts. Although there are no foxes there, so it's for just exercise and riding your horses.
The scenes where I was just playing around with the dogs, we looked at it and they just jumped out at us and we said, "Oh my gosh, that's just great. Goofy and dogs, why don't we put an idea together?" We put together this idea of me stepping out from behind the microphone, and finding out about my favorite animals, which are dogs. I love dogs and animals. It kind of just kind of came together in this very strange way, and we got to present it to Disney+ last January, actually, a year ago, January. They loved the idea and bought 10 episodes right on the spot.
We've had just a great time shooting this. I've learned so much about dogs, and different kinds of dogs. Dogs that help our lives, and work, and have different kinds of jobs. We have dogs that find whale poop, we have dogs that rescue people from collapsed buildings, we have dogs that can track you if you're lost or pets that are lost, there are pet detective dogs, there are mayor dogs. There was an episode where it was a mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. They elected a mayor that is a dog there. And there are all sorts of different wild things that make you say, "I had no idea that dogs could do this."
It was too late for our shooting, but I understand they're training dogs to smell out COVID-19. Because dogs can smell diabetes, they can smell low blood sugar, high blood sugar, skin cancer, many other things that I had no idea about, and it was just a lot of fun to get to explore this.
Was there any segment of filming It's a Dog Life that was your favorite or surprised you the most?
Gosh, every one. Maybe the whale poop one, which is in the first episode that comes out, I think, May 15th. There's a scientist up at the University of Washington who studies a species of killer whale, and the way they find out about the whale... they follow it, and they have to find the whale poop. And the whale poop can be analyzed to find out how healthy the whales are -- if they have parasites, if they're sick, if they're healthy, if they're pregnant, whatever.
But to find whale poop, you have to look for it. So you've got to go out on a boat and follow the whales. They found out that there's this little dog that they trained named Iba. Iba is a Jack Russell/ Pit Bull mix, and she can tell you when there's whale poop in the area, so the scientists can collect it and do the research. They've been so successful with this, that they went from finding in a two-week period maybe three samples, to over 100 samples.
The dog's totally efficient and totally amazing at this job and loves it. And her reward is just to get to play with a toy. It was just a joy to see, and one of the weirdest little stories I never believed existed.
Do you have any other upcoming projects outside of It's a Dog's Life?
Oh yes! I'm in a series in our second season on Disney+ called Amphibia, where I play a grandfather frog named Hop Pop, one of the regulars on that show. So I'm now doing not only dogs, but frogs, which is kind of fun. And Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is still on the air. We have Mickey and the Roadster Racers, Mickey's Mixed-Up Adventures. I'm doing a series of movies for DVD that will probably be on Disney+, I don't know about that. And I've got some other stuff coming up that I can't even talk about yet. they are keeping me busier than I've ever been in the last 33 years.
A Goofy Movie is now available on Disney+. It's a Dog's Life with Bill Farmer will premiere on May 15th on Disney+.